Sick leave in the public sector: a reality check

Treasury Board’s numbers don’t add up

The Parliamentary Budget Officer recently released a report called the Fiscal Analysis of Sick Leave in the Federal Public Service that busts the myths on sick leave that Treasury Board promotes:

  • The Treasury Board Secretariat claims that the “average” public servant takes 18.26 days per year, but this includes time missed due to workplace injuries and unpaid sick leave.
  • The report relies on Treasury Board averages to estimate that the number of paid sick days taken by each public sector worker is closer to 11.5. But this number doesn’t accurately reflect what most federal government workers actually use for a number of reasons: First, it is skewed by a small number of workers – like those in high-risk and high-stress workplaces such as correctional services – who need more time off because of the nature of their work. Second, the number also includes workers with extended illnesses who are using up sick leave credits before qualifying for long term disability.
  • The PBO says that the data provided by TBS “does not enable analysis to determine how significantly sick days have been over-stated due to disability leave.” The report repeatedly cites problems with the data received by Treasury Board, making deeper analysis difficult.
  • We do know that the averages are skewed by the fact that workers are forced to drain their sick leave banks before going on Long Term Disability. And the fact that long-term leaves are on the rise confirms the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Mental Health’s assertion that there is a “mental health crisis” in the federal public service.

 

The Conservative government wants to strip away sick leave rights and is thinking of contracting out the management of the sick leave system.

We say that unless this government wants to talk about improving what we already have, we aren’t interested.

The government’s numbers don’t add up

An honest comparison of public and private sector sick leave points to problems in the private sector. Many private sector workers aren’t paid when they’re sick so aren’t counted as “off sick.”

Statistics Canada reports that once gender, age and unionization are taken into account, there’s little difference between sick leave rates in the public and private sectors.

Sick leave is an insurance plan for when you’re sick

Sick leave is an insurance plan for when you’re sick, not a benefit for when you’re healthy. Thanks to sick leave benefits, PSAC members have been able to return to work healthy, instead of staying at work sick.

Collective agreements work

If there’s a problem with sick leave, management needs to take responsibility. Our collective agreements give management all the tools it needs to ensure sick leave is used responsibly.

Tony Clement is inflating the cost of sick leave

Unused sick leave isn’t a “perk” or a multi-billion dollar “liability.” Federal government workers can’t cash out unused sick days. Most workers aren’t replaced when they’re sick and they just work harder to catch up when they are back.

Healthy workplaces mean better services for Canadians

Workers should not be going to work when they are sick. It impedes recovery, puts co-workers at risk of illness, and undermines our ability to deliver vital services.

Let’s focus on promoting healthier workplaces and ensuring workers who are sick get the help they need when they need it – so that they can continue to deliver quality public services to Canadians.

Let’s stand together for sick leave so that our members have the sick leave they need, when they need it.

Together, we can save sick leave

Support your bargaining team. Talk to your friends & co-workers. Stand together for sick leave and for public services.

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April 3, 2014
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